Water still problem in GA disaster

As disaster response organizations work to assess needs, local churches help identify immediate response.


Friends of Fenando Uribe help remove wet drywall and debris from his home in Austell, Georgia after rising waters drowned the home to the second level.
Credit: DNN/Zachary Hoffman

Many families in Georgia are still cleaning up their homes nearly a month after record flooding destroyed nearly 2,000 homes and damaged thousands more in 17 counties.

And as assessments continue, volunteers from local churches are helping families mop-out and clean up after the devastating disaster.

One such church is McEachern United Methodist. The church has adopted two families whose husbands are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Volunteer teams are helping each family move furniture into Portable On Demand storage units (PODs) and clean out damaged items from the basement.

“Both have less than six inches of water in their basement, but both have people living the basement too,” said Stan Hames from McEachern. Hames has been coordinating a number of the local teams that have come into the area to do clean up.

Most of the tear outs are completed; now people who had a just few inches of water in their basements and were less of a priority immediately after the flooding are receiving help with clean up.

“There’s that occasional person who comes in and had a little bit of damage, but not a lot,” said Hames. “One woman hadn’t been in her basement for two weeks, and low and behold she had water in it.”

While some homes are not safe to enter without a respirator and HAZMAT suit after this long of time, some residents have already started to focus on rebuilding.

“There are some folks that are getting excited about rebuilding and are hiring their own contractors if they have the funds,” said Mike Yoder, northern Georgia conference disaster response coordinator for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Most of the rebuilding will not begin for another two weeks to a month. There are still a lot of inspections of electrical lines and other utilities that needs to be done before individual counties start distributing the funding provided for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA has contributed more than $24 million to temporary housing and home repairs for affected residents in Georgia.

“This is getting to be a slow process getting started,” said Yoder. ‘It’s not hardly dry enough, if you don’t wait, it (water) will bleed through the sheet rock.”

Bob Tribble for Georgia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (GaVOAD) said, “When it dries out we’re ready to start recovery. It’s raining here right now and the humidity has been real high.”

Long-term recovery groups are currently being established in 10 of the 17 affected counties to facilitate unmet needs when the recovery phase begins.

Cobb County had approximately 5,000 residents register for FEMA assistance. The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is sending a 20-person team to Cobb November 7 to facilitate needs assessments for those affected.

“They will go door to door asking if they were affected by the floods and if they were they’ll ask what their unmet needs are,” said Becky Purdom, the individual volunteer opportunities coordinator for CRWRC.

All the requests, from new doors to mental health requests, will be collected and prioritized for the long-term recovery centers to begin addressing.

Purdom said CRWRC expects to receive need assessment requests from Douglas County and Paulding County as well.

In mid-September, a storm system inundated northern Georgia with nearly two feet of rain in a single day. The already saturated ground caused the water levels to rise and reach the 500-year flood plain level.

The flooding killed eight people and destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, spurring a presidential disaster declaration for 17 counties.

The 17 counties included in the federal disaster declaration for individual assistance are Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb Coweta, DeKalh, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker.

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